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June 12, 2019

PHC puts on notice anti-graft body’s prosecutor-general


June 12, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday put on notice Prosecutor General of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in an application seeking an order to stop the anti-graft body from inquiry, investigation and trial of a woman who featured in an audio and video conversation with the NAB chairman till a final decision in the case.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor issued notice to the NAB prosecutor general to appear in person on June 25 and argue the law points raised in the application before the high court.

The chief justice observed that the issue raised by the petitioner in the application has already gone viral in media.

The NAB prosecutor present in the court submitted that the organization’s prosecutor general would argue the law points raised in the application.

Shahid Orakzai, a citizen known for raising public interest issues in superior courts, filed the application before the court seeking an order to immediately suspend Section 24 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and stop any action under the ordinance related to inquiry, investigation and trial of the woman until a decision on this application.

The petitioner moved the application in his main writ petition in which he had challenged powers of the NAB chairman under Section 24 of National Accountability Ordinance 1999 regarding the arrest of an accused at any stage of the investigation.

The petitioner claimed these powers are being misused as powerful and influential suspects are not being arrested. He termed it a massive and brutal violation of the fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 25 of Constitution as every citizen is equal before the law.

The petitioner argued that the NAB is run by spending public money and is primarily tasked to recover public money and thus no person shall be subjected to ‘sexual plea bargain’ during any inquiry or investigation under section 24 of NAO.

The petitioner submitted that neither the NAB chairman nor the officers mentioned in section 24 of NAO can secretly pressure an accused for the purpose of sexual abuse.

The petitioner drew the court’s attention to ‘an ultra- vulgar’ conversation of the respondent NAB chairman with the woman, now an accused facing a reference in an accountability court in Lahore.

He pointed out that the seductive phone talk and a subsequent video of the two made at some point outside the NAB headquarters were aired last month by a private news channel. He recalled that the Prime Minister’s Secretariat scrambled to control the damage.

The petitioner requested the court to ask the federal government about the need to defend the NAB chairman. Instead, he argued that the government is duty-bound to apprise the President of Pakistan about the conduct of the chairman for further action against him under Article 209.

“The audio clip cannot be played in the court but a transcript can be provided to the court. The vulgarity, however, has much to do with undertones and the Urdu transcript by itself cannot explain the sexual tactics being applied against the feminine accused,” the petitioner stated in the application.

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